In its most
limited form, the game playing element is conveyed through
the feedback that is displayed during (or at the conclusion
of) exercises. A typical example is where, with each successful
step completed, an image is gradually displayed or an animation
progresses. This is a sort of variation of the well known
"hangman" game. In this case, however, the connotations
related to the learner's performance are positive rather
than negative, i.e. instead of penalising failure, the game
Based Reading (Lexia Systems):
the learner listens to the target word and drags
and drops the chosen letter into the gap. With
each word successfully completed, an element is
added to the castle illustration: this hangman-style
progressive feedback heightens the game element.
In the example above, the
learner's focus of attention alternates between the language exercise and the
game element. However, in most cases game playing is
an intrinsic part of the interaction itself. Many programs adopt game formats
that are familiar to children, like jigsaw and crossword puzzles, colouring,
joining the dots, treasure hunts, etc.
Tell Me More
Pairing exercise presented as a join-the-dots
In some cases the activity
takes the form of a fully fledged video game, requiring not
only language competence but also manual dexterity and fast
Zak's Word Games
Shooting gallery game with moving targets (letters
and flash card illustrations). Learner first "shoots"
a letter then attempts to shoot the corresponding
flash card picture as it moves across the screen. The
shooting action, performed with arrow keys and
mouse, requires eye-hand co-ordination and manual
Some English language
programs also propose games that have no language
learning focus at all, but help to provide variety, reduce the cognitive load
and, possibly, to develop general cognitive and motor
abilities. Sometimes these games are offered as "rewards"
for the successful completion of language-learning activities, so as
to increase motivation, or as introductory warm-ups that stimulate
curiosity (in some cases these games may also prove useful for exercising different types of "intelligence"
- see Gardner's
theory of Multiple Intelligences).
(Nicola Milano): form recognition game. Position
the green shapes in the appropriate parts of the
"shooting gallery" video game: shoot
the falling hearts.
Sometimes the whole program
is presented as a game: the learner follows an itinerary and
along the way encounters a series of challenges
to complete, or information to gather, so as to complete the game cycle.
Games (Longman - Pearson) a series of word
games presented in the form of a fantasy quest. To
help Zak return to his home planet, the learner must
complete all three levels of the game cycle.
English Junior (De Agostini):
is presented as a narrative - a journey in the
company of Leo and his band of friends in search
of Leo's sister, who has mysteriously disappeared.
English Junior (De Agostini):
learner completes activities and proceeds along
the itinerary, he/she is presented with a series
of clues that form a trail leading to Leo's sister.